My New Happy: Enjoying Disney With Older Kids

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Enjoying Disney With Older Kids

My hubby and I took the boys to Walt Disney World in December.  It was our third visit, but the first one with teenagers.  Even though nothing beats the magic of Disney with younger kids, this was our favorite trip by far.  

Nobody got cranky (well, except my husband, but I was prepared for that :), I didn't have to worry about losing anybody, and if someone wanted to do something else, they could go off on their own.  My only complaint?  The boys wore me out.  One night C talked me into staying until 2am - I am definitely getting too old for almost-all nighters!

Here are my top five tips for enjoying Disney with older kids:

--Get to the parks early.  I'm talking an hour before they open early. I can't say this enough, and it applies no matter how old your kids are.  Even though it means dragging yourself out of bed at a ridiculous hour, it's worth it.  By arriving before rope drop, you will save HOURS of waiting in line later.  Crowds really start to build about two hours after opening, and you can get so much done before the masses get there.

7am our first morning, waiting for the park to open.  It was so cold!
--Make a plan, but be flexible.  Have a general idea of what your must see's are, and try to hit them first.  Unfortunately, Disney has become very schedule oriented - you have to make dining and fast pass reservations months ahead of time, which takes away a lot of the spontaneity.  So do those things when you have to, but leave room for the unexpected, and don't be afraid to change your mind.  There are so many things to see!

--Stop to eat.  My boys' lives pretty much revolve around food, and gone are the days when I can give them yogurt or crackers to appease them.  To avoid major grumpiness, plan to sit down and eat a full meal at least once a day.  There are plenty of quick service restaurants for the rest of your meals and snacks, but taking an hour to relax and get a good lunch or dinner is so important.  This was my husband's one request for this trip, and I'm so glad we did it. There are some really good restaurants at Disney, and except on the busiest days, you can get a seat without a reservation. 

--Take a break at mid day.  Disney is expensive - like, really expensive.  It's tempting to stay in the parks from open to close just to get your money's worth out of that ticket. But around noon it gets REALLY busy.  There's no point in fighting the crowds just to stand in a long line and be irritated with your family.  Every day we would head to our room and go for a swim or take a nap.  Then we went back to the parks, refreshed and ready to party.

--Let them go.  This was the first time that I felt comfortable letting the boys take off and do the things they wanted to do.  At this age, all they care about are the rides, and hubby and I were starting to get nauseous!  Many times we sent them on their way. One day they rode Splash Mountain nine times in a row - they were soaked but happy. Meanwhile, we strolled around and saw things we'd never experienced before.

Above all else, be in the moment and have fun!  About halfway through our trip I realized this was probably the last time our family of four would be together at Disney World. Which made me sad, but then I thought about how lucky I was to be there with them, and I needed to make the most of all the memories.  This may or may not be why I agreed to stay up with C until 2am.  I was dragging the next day, but it was worth every second.


  1. This is great! The first and only time we took our kids to Disney our oldest was a 15. She still loved it! I think teens are a great age to take to Disney. Love your pictures. BTW, I can totally relate to the eating thing. If we don't get substantial food for my 17 year old son every few hours, he becomes unbearable to be around. Feed him and he's a pleasure!

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  3. How cool, what a great trip! That last picture is my favorite :)

  4. What a great experience, these trips never get doesn't matter how old your kids get. Love all the pictures too.

  5. Just as soon as I get my finances in order, I am putting away some money each month so that I can take both my girls to Disney World in 3-4 years, it will take me that long to save it but I thought my youngest who is 11 will be 14 or 15 and that she would totally enjoy it then. I went when I was nine... a year after it opened. I remember it was fun but I don't remember much else.. Have a great weekend Lana xox

  6. I'm SO glad you had a wonderful trip. These are some excellent tips. I think any age can enjoy the magic of Disney!!

  7. We took our kids when they were little and that was a LONG time ago. I am looking forward to taking the grandbabies back one day. I remember our last family vacation to Gatlinburg for a week and it was so much fun with them being older. I miss having them but I also love the alone time hubby and I manage to sneak in when we can. That is the one reason I am bound and determined to do this cross country trip this year. Two weeks with just the hubby I could day dream about it all day! Right now we are a little grumpy with each other. All nighter with baby, a week on not smoking yeah it's been fun haha! I'm so glad you had a great time!

  8. Aww.. maybe you will go again! I'm in that awkward stage of one kid loving it and one kid being too young to remember it. So I guess there are trips in our future too.
    I love the idea of letting people go off and do their own thing! Sigh. I'm so far from that.
    And I never even really thought about how much teens would need to eat! My kids can usually thrive off of treats and snacks so far...
    ..but we need more than that.

  9. Last year my family went for the first time--me and 4 of my sister, all of us aged between 22 and 7, were the "kids" involved, and my Mom said afterwards that she thought it was the perfect age group! haha!

  10. Great post, Lana. We had a blast with our teens at Disney, and they were able to help with the younger ones too. I have to admit that I love this stage. :)


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